Although Hamilton’s “View of the Commercial Regulations of France & Great Britain in reference to the United States” is undated, it is clear that the documents which comprise it were written by Hamilton at different times during the early part of Washington’s Administration. As early as 1789 it was apparent to many Americans that in spite of the apparent prosperity of United States commerce the future of the country in relation to other commercial powers was precarious. It was this realization which led to suggestions for forcing a more favorable policy from other nations through retaliatory tariffs or achieving a permanent system more amicably through the negotiation of commercial treaties.
After the American Revolution, as before, British commercial policy was dominated by the determination to protect British commerce and navigation by the enforcement of the Navigation Laws and the exclusion of foreign powers from trade with the British colonies. At the peace negotiations in 1783 the American emissaries, John Jay, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams, attempted to secure for the United States some of the commercial advantages which the North American colonies had enjoyed before the Revolution, particularly a share in the carrying trade with the British West Indies. John Jay had inserted in his October 5, 1782, draft of a peace treaty an article which guaranteed that in the ports and possessions of each power the nationals of the other power would be treated in the same fashion as its own nationals. When the final articles of the treaty were drawn up this clause was omitted, chiefly because of the fear that the supporters in Parliament of the British Navigation Laws might prevent acceptance of the treaty if the reciprocity clause was included. A similar proposal by William Pitt for complete reciprocity between the United States and Britain was defeated through the influence of followers of Lord Sheffield who favored a policy of complete mercantile monopoly and vigorous enforcement of the Navigation Laws. These political considerations compelled the negotiators to omit commercial clauses from the final draft of the treaty.1
After the American Revolution British trade with the United States had been reopened by an act of Parliament passed in April, 1783, “for the better carrying on of Trade and Commerce between the Subjects of His Majesty’s Dominions and the Inhabitants of the … United States,” which, in addition to permitting United States shipping into British ports without manifests or certificates, invested the King with the power to issue regulations concerning commerce with the United States.2 This statute was renewed from year to year,3 and most regulations concerning products imported into Britain from the United States from 1783 to 1788 appeared in a series of orders in council. For example, an order in council issued in 1783 permitted “Oil, or unmanufactured Goods and Merchandises being the Growth or Production of any of the Territories of the United States of America, imported directly from thence in British or American Vessels to an Entry upon Payment of the like Duties, as if imported by British Subjects in British Ships, from any of the British Islands or Plantations in America.”4 Another order, passed in June, 1783, permitted the importation from the United States of all unmanufactured goods permitted by law on the same terms as if imported from a British colony, such goods to be carried in either British or American bottoms.5 In December, 1783, a new order in council was passed encompassing all the “several regulations hitherto issued. It permitted the importation of any unmanufactured goods, not prohibited by law (except oil), and pitch, tar, turpentine, indigo, masts, yards, and bowsprits, being the produce of the United states of America, either by British or American subjects, and either in British or American vessels, on paying the same duties as were payable on the importation of such goods from the British colonies by British subjects in British vessels; the production of the documents required by law being also dispensed with, and all drawbacks, exemptions, and bounties, on goods exported from Great Britain to the United states being allowed as fully on such goods exported to the British colonies. Tobacco, the produce of the United states, was allowed to be imported in the same manner into this kingdom.…”6 The British regulations concerning the direct trade between the United States and Britain in the period from 1783 to 1793 generally were favorable enough to enable Great Britain to become the best customer of the United States.7 This advantage was counterbalanced by the fact that, since the United States had not been able to negotiate a commercial treaty with Great Britain, commercial regulations between the two countries were controlled by temporary regulations which could be changed at any time.
The most important aspect of pre-Revolutionary American commerce had been the trade of the North American British colonies with the West Indies. It was hoped at the time of the peace negotiations that at least some part of the trade could be retained by the United States, but all attempts to gain a foothold in the carrying trade with the West Indies proved fruitless. Postwar British policy toward the United States trade with the West Indies was established by an order in council of July 2, 1783, which, while it allowed the importation into the West Indies of such American products as lumber, flour, and livestock, stipulated that these products were to be brought to the West Indies only in British ships.8 Although intended as a temporary measure, it was continued by a series of extensions until 1788, when a new act was passed which permanently excluded United States shipping from the West Indian trade. David Macpherson observed that “the parliament, thinking that the experience of five years had now proved that British vessels were competent to the supply of the West-India islands with the produce of America, enacted a permanent law, instead of the temporary regulations hitherto generally renewed every year.”9
In the Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress, an unaddressed statement dated January 20, 1792, prepared by Phineas Bond, British consul at Philadelphia, presents the British view of Great Britain’s commercial policy toward the United States. It is uncertain whether or not Bond addressed this statement to Hamilton. It is, however, endorsed in Hamilton’s handwriting “Remarks concerning the Commercial policy of G Britain towards this country by Mr. Bond British consul.” Bond’s statement reads as follows:
“Since the Peace, the Parliament of Great Britain has, annually, given his Majesty Power to make provisional commercial regulations with the United States.
“His Majesty in virtue of this power by his order in Council has permitted the importation of any (unprohibited) Goods, being the Growth or Produce of the United States, directly from thence into Great Britain; not only in British Ships,10 but in American built ships, owned by American subjects, the Master and at least ¾ of the mariners being American subjects.
“By this regulation his Majesty has put the Commerce of the United States, as far as relates to the Vessels, in which American produce can be imported into Great Britain, upon a footing with every European nation.
“Any unmanufactured goods (except Fish Oil, Blubber, Whale Fins, and Spermaceti) and also any Pig Iron (and other articles enumerated in the order of Council) may be imported into Great Britain on payment of the same duties as the like goods imported from any British Island or Plantation in America—and with respect to Fish-Oil, Blubber, Whale Fins and Spermaceti and all other goods, not enumerated, being the growth, production or manufacture of the United States, they may be imported from the United States into Great Britain subject to such duties of customs and Excise as are payable on the like goods upon their importation from Countries not under the dominion of his Majesty according to the Tables A, D, and F, annexed to the consolidating act,11 and where different duties are therein imposed upon like goods imported from different foreign Countries, then upon payment of the lowest of such duties—so that with respect to certain enumerated articles, in which the Commerce of the United States is most essentially involved, the same indulgence is granted to the Commerce of the United States, which his Majesty’s dominions in North America and the West Indies enjoy. In many of these important articles the Commerce of the United States is most materially benefitted by the indulgence thus given, to the great Injury of other foreign Countries. For instance in the single article of woods of every description (except yards, masts and bowsprits) they may be imported into Great Britain free from duty.
“With respect to every other article of the produce or manufacture of the United States, not enumerated or described in the orders of Council, his Majesty has placed the Commerce of the United States upon a footing with the most favored nations of Europe—except such only with whom Treaties of Commerce have been formed upon principles of reciprocal and mutual advantage. One other material indulgence arises to the Commerce of the United States; By the regulations contained in the orders of Council, all goods and merchandize, being the growth, production or manufacture of the United States, are permitted to be imported into Great Britain exempted from the Alien’s duty; Whereas goods imported in the Vessels of every other foreign nation, are subject to the payment of Alien’s duty.
“A Table of the articles, imported from the United States into Great Britain, under exemptions or reductions of duties, with a comparative estimate of what duties the same articles pay when imported from the most favored nations of Europe, would evince the peculiar advantages gained by the United States—to the great detriment of other foreign nations, and to the immense diminution of the revenue of Great Britain, which in duties on the single article of woods annually receives from other foreign nations near £300,000. Such a table and such an Estimate may be formed by resorting to the export of the favored articles from the United States to Great Britain, and will demonstrate how much America saves in this respect by her commerce with that Country.
“From these combined circumstances it is plain that Great Britain, so far from being considered as the commercial Enemy of these States, has extended benefits and privileges to the Commerce of this Country which originated in colonial indulgence; nor will it be going too far to aver that Great Britain has granted America greater advantages, in point of Commerce than any other nation in Europe can grant.”12
One of the most lucrative aspects of the trade of the North American colonies before the American Revolution had been the commerce between New England and the French West Indies. Officially the French government had pursued a policy of complete monopoly of the trade of its West Indian islands and had attempted to enforce this policy by a number of stringent regulations. The Lettres Patentes of 1717 and 1727, for example, prohibited foreign trade with the islands and forbade foreign ships to approach within one league of their shores.13 The need of the French islands for provisions during the Seven Years’ War led to some concessions to foreign trade, but in 1763 and 1767 new arrêts, while they granted a few privileges to foreign shipping, restored much of the prohibitive policy of the earlier Lettres Patentes.14 In spite of the attempts of both the French and the British government at discouragement, the New England trade—much of it contraband—with the French West Indies flourished during the period preceding the American Revolution.15 When the Treaty of Amity and Commerce was signed between the United States and France in 1778, provision was made for each power to have most-favored-nation privileges,16 and in the same year an administrative ordinance permitted foreign vessels into West Indian ports. At the close of the Revolution the demands of French merchants and shipping interests who favored a return to mercantilist regulations made it necessary for the French Ministry to review its West Indian trade policy. In May, 1783, the ordinance of July 20, 1778, opening the West Indies to foreign trade was annulled,17 and France’s postwar policy toward foreign trade with her colonies in the West Indies was enunciated in the arrêt of August 30, 1784. This decree opened eight entrepôts in the French islands in contrast to the two provided for in the arrêt of 1767 and added a number of additional products to those permitted by that arrêt. The only articles permitted to be exported from the islands were rum, molasses, and goods manufactured in France, and a premium was granted to French industries in the form of a duty of three livres per quintal on foreign salt fish and salt beef. A special advantage to the United States lay in the admission to the West Indies of a number of products on the condition that they be imported in ships of less than sixty tons. The prohibition of American flour, however, was a serious blow to the trade of grain-growing areas in the United States.18
Although the arrêt represented a liberal trend on the part of the French Ministry, it failed to satisfy all the demands of the United States and aroused opposition among French merchants.19 Probably because of French agitation, two other decrees were passed the next year which increased the duty on American fish and granted bounties on French cod carried to the French West Indies, and an arrêt of 1787 increased both the bounty and the duty.20
In the direct trade between the United States and France the French policy was as favorable to the United States as possible in view of the pressure of commercial interests for a mercantilistic policy. Largely through the efforts of Jefferson, who as United States Minister to France pressed strongly for commercial advantages, the French government made a number of concessions to United States commerce during the seventeeneighties. A considerable reduction on the importation of American whale oil was secured; duties were abolished on skins, potash and pearlash, and beaver skins; provision was made for free importation of ships constructed in the United States; L’Orient and Bayonne were designated free ports specifically for the American trade and access was granted to the other free ports of France; in 1787 a right of entry was granted to American merchandise into all the ports of France; an entrepôt was established on Isle de France especially for the American East Indian trade.21 Despite these concessions, trade between the United States and France never reached substantial proportions in the years between the American and French revolutions.22
Several explanations have been advanced for the failure of France to replace Great Britain in trade with the United States: the fact that habit made Americans prefer British products and that British manufactured articles were generally superior to French; that France could not supply the products needed by the United States and that her merchants were unfamiliar with American commercial arrangements; that French policy was not favorable enough to the United States to offset the advantages offered by Britain.23 Two factors, however, seem to have been most decisive in circumventing France’s efforts to secure the American trade. The first was the inability of French merchants to extend the long-term credit so essential to business operations of American mercantile firms. The British firms’ established policy of extending long-term credits often brought a common involvement between creditor and merchant that made severance of ties difficult. Tallyrand observed: “The great capitals of the English merchants enable them to give more credit than those of any other nation; this credit is at least for a year, often for a longer time. The consequence is, that the American merchant who receives his wares from England, employs scarcely any principal of his own in this commerce; but trades almost entirely upon English capitals.”24 The second factor which operated to the detriment of French trade with the United States was France’s policy toward the importation of tobacco. The right of importation and control of tobacco in France had been sold by the French government in 1721 to the Farmers-General, giving that body absolute control over purchases of foreign tobacco. As a further complication to the sale of American tobacco in France, the Farmers-General in 1785 entered into a contract with the American financier Robert Morris. Under the terms of this contract “Morris undertook to deliver in France sixty thousand hogsheads of tobacco in the three successive years, 1785, 1786, 1787, at the rate of twenty thousand a year, in a specified assortment and quality. The tobacco was to be shipped in American vessels rather than in French.…”25 American merchants shipping tobacco to France thus had to negotiate with Morris as well as abide by the restrictions of the Farmers-General. There were concerted attacks in France both against the Morris contract and, more importantly, against the entire policy of granting the monopoly of the tobacco trade to the Farmers-General. Inspired by Jefferson and led by Lafayette and Vergennes, these attacks were not successful in forcing the cancellation of the Farmers-General monopoly, but they did bring about the appointment of a committee to inquire into the commercial relations with the United States. In the decision of Bernis on May 25, 1785, this committee agreed that, while the contract with Morris could not be canceled, such an agreement should never again be made, and that, in addition to the tobacco purchased from Morris, the Farmers-General should also buy twelve to fifteen thousand additional hogsheads from other American merchants on the same terms as those prescribed by the Morris contract.26 Although the Morris contract expired in 1787 and could not be renewed, the control of the Farmers-General over the importation of tobacco continued until the tobacco monopoly was abolished by the Revolutionary government in 1791. Throughout the seventeen-eighties, therefore, the trade in tobacco, one of the most important commodities of the United States, had been stifled by this monopoly.
During the early years of the French Revolution, although American trade was still generally treated more favorably than that of other nations, an increasingly stringent policy was pursued by the French Assembly. Motivated perhaps by disillusion with the failure of the attempt to detach the American trade from Great Britain, sometimes by the pressures of French chambers of commerce and merchant groups which desired a return to mercantilistic policies, particularly in the West Indies, and on occasion simply by ignorance of the implications of its legislation, the Assembly passed a number of decrees to the detriment of American commerce. Although the tobacco monopoly of the Farmers-General was abolished, a heavy duty was placed on the importation of foreign tobacco with considerable distinction in favor of French ships; importation of ships built abroad was forbidden; and the duty on American oils was augmented. William Short, United States charge d’affaires at Paris, made valiant—but largely unsuccessful—efforts to protect United States commerce against the onslaughts of the Assembly.27
On December 16, 1793, Thomas Jefferson submitted to the House of Representatives a report entitled “The Privileges and Restrictions on the Commerce of the United States and the restrictions imposed by European countries against United States commerce both in Europe and in the colonies.” In this report Jefferson emphasized the severity of British restrictions compared to those of other powers and proposed that the United States impose restrictions on the commerce of any nation which pursued a restrictive policy toward the United States.28 In an effort to implement Jefferson’s proposal, James Madison on January 3, 1794, introduced a series of resolutions which were designed to establish a system of retaliation against nations which enacted discriminatory legislation against American commerce.29 On January 13, 1794, Senator William Loughton Smith of South Carolina delivered a major speech in the Senate opposing Madison’s resolutions.30 It has been asserted on more than one occasion that Hamilton was the author of this speech, and the document printed below has frequently been cited as proof of this fact.31 There can be no doubt that Hamilton’s notes were used by Smith in his speech. Several sentences in Smith’s speech are similar to those in Hamilton’s notes, and two of Hamilton’s paragraphs appear without change in Smith’s speech. On the other hand, it does not necessarily follow that the “View” was prepared specifically for the use of Smith in his attack on Madison’s resolutions. Smith’s speech is considerably longer than the notes in the “View,” and it contains facts and figures not used by Hamilton. At the same time, it does not include information on such topics as whaling and the codfisheries that Hamilton discusses in his notes. Despite the similarities, therefore, the “View” is clearly not a draft of Smith’s speech. If indeed Hamilton was the author of Smith’s attack, as seems entirely possible from the style and content of the South Carolinian’s speech, no draft in his handwriting has been found.
It is possible that Hamilton may have written the notes considerably earlier—before the end of 1792 and perhaps even in late 1791—and either used them himself to prepare Smith’s speech or gave them to Smith when the Senator was preparing his criticism of the Jefferson-Madison views on commerce in 1794.32
There are at least two occasions before the end of 1792 on which Hamilton might have written the “View.” He may have prepared it as background material when the cabinet was discussing a proposed commercial treaty with France in late 1791 and early 1792, or it may have been part of a comparative study which Hamilton was preparing during the same period on the commercial systems of Great Britain and France.
The attempt to negotiate a commercial treaty with France was the result of efforts to improve the deteriorating commercial relations between France and the United States. As early as June 2, 1791, the French National Assembly had authorized the King to open negotiations with the United States for a new treaty of commerce.33 The failure of the French Ministry to act on the authorization led Jefferson to believe that France wanted the first proposals for a new treaty to come from the United States. The Secretary of State, however, was reluctant to take the first steps in negotiation,34 but Hamilton discussed the matter with Jean Baptiste de Ternant, the French Minister to the United States, in October, 1791.35 In spite of Ternant’s noncommittal attitude, a debate in the cabinet resulted in a decision to draw up the draft for a commercial treaty. In November, 1791, Jefferson drafted a treaty,36 but Hamilton opposed it on the ground that the rates were too low. The negotiations were finally dropped.
Although Hamilton may have drawn up the “View” as background for the abortive Franco-American commercial treaty, the possibility also exists that the notes were part of a comparative study of the commercial systems of Britain and France in relation to the United States, for Hamilton had undertaken such a project in late 1791 and in 1792. On December 19, 1791, George Hammond, the British Minister to the United States, reported to Lord Grenville that “Mr. Hamilton informed me that he was preparing a report upon the actual state of the navigation and commerce of this country, whence it would appear that the present system of France was more favorable to the former, and that of Great Britain to the latter.”37 On January 1, 1792, Hamilton wrote to Jefferson that he was “engaged in making a comparative statement of the Trade between the U S & France & between the U S & G Britain” and requested any pertinent information Jefferson might have concerning French commercial regulations.
The possibility also exists that Hamilton wrote these notes in anticipation of Jefferson’s report on commerce. As indicated above, this report was not made to Congress until December 16, 1793. The report, however, had been requested by the House of Representatives on February 23, 1791, and throughout 1791 and 1792 it was known that the Secretary of State was drawing up such a report.38 Whatever may have been the specific occasion for Hamilton’s writing of the “View,” it was prompted in general by the commercial problems which had arisen as a result of the failure of the United States to negotiate commercial treaties with Britain and France.
1. Samuel Flagg Bemis, The Diplomacy of the American Revolution (Bloomington, 1957), 235–36, and Setser, Commercial Reciprocity description begins Vernon G. Setser, The Commercial Reciprocity Policy of the United States, 1774–1829 (Philadelphia, 1937). description ends , 33–51.
2. 23 Geo. III, C. 39 (1783). Section 3 provided “That, during the Continuance of this Act, it shall and may be lawful for his Majesty in Council, by Order or Orders to be issued and published from Time to Time, to give such Directions, and to make such Regulations, with respect to Duties, Drawbacks, or otherwise, for carrying on the Trade and Commerce between the People and Territories belonging to the Crown of Great Britain and the People and Territories of the said United States, as to his Majesty in Council shall appear most expedient and salutary; any Law, Usage, or Custom, to the contrary notwithstanding.”
3. See, for example, 24 Geo. III, C. 45 (1784); 25 Geo. III, C. 5 (1785); 28 Geo. III, C. 5 (1788); 29 Geo. III, C. 1 (1789); 31 Geo. III, C. 12 (1791); 32 Geo. III, C. 14 (1792).
4. Order in council of May 14, 1783. All orders in council cited in the footnotes to this document may be found in The London Gazette.
5. Order in council of June 6, 1783.
6. Macpherson, Annals of Commerce, IV description begins David Macpherson, Annals of Commerce, Manufactures, Fisheries, and Navigation, with Brief Notices of the Arts and Sciences Connected with Them. Containing the Commercial Transactions of the British Empire and Other Countries, From the Earliest Accounts to the Meeting of the Union Parliament in January 1801; and Comprehending the Most Valuable Part of the Late Mr. Anderson’s History of Commerce … (London, 1805), IV. description ends , 28. This order in council is dated December 26, 1783.
7. Samuel Flagg Bemis has observed: “To the United States the trade was vitally important. It composed by far the greater part of the total volume of American commerce. The precise percentage which Great Britain shared of the total trade of the United States cannot be determined because American customs records do not begin until 1789, and the English statistics have been destroyed by fire. In 1790 of the total American exports valued at $20,194,794 there were sent to British ports $9,246,562; but of a total value of $15,388,409 of imports paying ad valorem duties $13,798,168 were from Britain, that is, about ninety per cent. These last figures do not show comparisons with the whole of American imports of that year, because there were other imports, value not estimated, which paid specific duties. If England possessed this amount of the trade in 1790, it is fair to assume that she held at least such a proportion in the six years preceding 1789. Of shipping amounting to 90,420 tons, clearing from ports in the British Islands for the United States in 463 ships in 1790, 50,979 tons went in 245 British ships; 39,441 tons were classed in 218 American vessels. Of 109,431 tons entering from America, 64,197 tons were in 312 British ships, and 246 American ships carried 45,234 tons” (Samuel Flagg Bemis, Jay’s Treaty, a Study in Commerce and Diplomacy [New York, 1923], 33–34).
8. The order in council of July 2, 1783, permitted “British subjects to carry in British vessels all kinds of naval stores, spars, and all kinds of lumber, horses, and all other kinds of live stock, and all kinds of corn, flour, and bread from the United States of America to the West-India islands; and to carry rum, sugar, melasses, coffee, chocolate nuts, ginger, and pimento from the islands to the United states, on paying the same duties, and conforming to the same regulations, as if they were cleared out for a British colony” (Macpherson, Annals of Commerce, IV description begins David Macpherson, Annals of Commerce, Manufactures, Fisheries, and Navigation, with Brief Notices of the Arts and Sciences Connected with Them. Containing the Commercial Transactions of the British Empire and Other Countries, From the Earliest Accounts to the Meeting of the Union Parliament in January 1801; and Comprehending the Most Valuable Part of the Late Mr. Anderson’s History of Commerce … (London, 1805), IV. description ends , 26). Protests against the prohibition of American ships from the West Indian trade did not come only from the excluded American merchants, for there was also vigorous opposition to the measure from the planters of the West Indies who maintained that the British carrying trade would not be able to supply the islands with provisions. See, for example, A State of the Allegations and Evidence produced, and Opinions of Merchants and other Persons given, to the Committee of Council; extracted from their Report of the 31st of May 1784, on His Majesty’s Order of Reference of the 8th of March last, Made upon the Representation of the West-India Planters and Merchants, purporting to shew the distressed State of His Majesty’s Sugar Colonies, by the Operation of His Majesty’s Order in Council of the 2d of July 1783, and the Necessity of allowing a free Intercourse between the Sugar Colonies and the United States of America, in American Bottoms (n.p., 1784). Macpherson observed: “This order was considered by administration as an indulgence, both to the islands and to the United states: but it was not received as such by either of them. The West-India planters cried out, that the islands must inevitably be ruined, if there were not as free and unrestrained an intercourse between them and the continent, and as free admission of American vessels as there was when the later was under the British dominion; and the Americans were so much offended by it, that the assemblies of three of the states actually made a requisition to the congress that they would prohibit all commercial intercourse with the British colonies” (Macpherson, Annals of Commerce, IV description begins David Macpherson, Annals of Commerce, Manufactures, Fisheries, and Navigation, with Brief Notices of the Arts and Sciences Connected with Them. Containing the Commercial Transactions of the British Empire and Other Countries, From the Earliest Accounts to the Meeting of the Union Parliament in January 1801; and Comprehending the Most Valuable Part of the Late Mr. Anderson’s History of Commerce … (London, 1805), IV. description ends , 26).
9. Macpherson, Annals of Commerce, IV description begins David Macpherson, Annals of Commerce, Manufactures, Fisheries, and Navigation, with Brief Notices of the Arts and Sciences Connected with Them. Containing the Commercial Transactions of the British Empire and Other Countries, From the Earliest Accounts to the Meeting of the Union Parliament in January 1801; and Comprehending the Most Valuable Part of the Late Mr. Anderson’s History of Commerce … (London, 1805), IV. description ends , 168. This act provided that “no Goods or Commodities whatever shall be imported or brought from any of the Territories belonging to the said United States of America, into any of His Majesty’s West India Islands (in which Description the Bahama Islands, and the Bermuda or Somers Islands, are included), under the Penalty of the Forfeiture thereof, and also of the Ship or Vessel in which the same shall be so imported or brought, … except Tobacco, Pitch, Tar, Turpentine, Hemp, Flax, Masts, Yards, Bowsprits, Staves, Heading-boards, Timber, Shingles, and Lumber of any Sort; Horses, Neat Cattle, Sheep, Hogs, Poultry, and Live Stock of any Sort; Bread, Biscuit, Flour, Peas, Beans, Potatoes, Wheat, Rice, Oats, Barley, and Grain of any Sort; such Commodities respectively being the Growth or Production of any of the Territories of the said United States of America” (28 Geo. III, C. 6 ).
The only exception to the regulation concerning British bottoms was a minor concession to United States vessels which “arriving in ballast at the Turk’s islands, are permitted to load with salt, and no other article, on paying a duty of 2/6 per tun (payable in dollars at 5/6 per ounce) their measurement being determined by a proper officer. Neither can any other article than salt be exported from Turk’s islands to any British colony in America or the WestIndies; nor can any goods be exported from them to Great Britain and Ireland, but salt and such articles as may be imported from all countries free of duty.—Such articles, as are allowed to be imported from the United states to the British West-Indies, must not be imported from any foreign West-India island; except in cases of distress, when the governor and council of any island may permit the importation of them in British vessels for a limited time.—No goods whatever are allowed to be imported from the United states into Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Cape Breton, St. John’s, Newfoundland, and their dependencies; except in cases of distress, when the governor and council of any of the provinces may allow timber and lumber, horses, cattle and other live stock, bread, potatoes, and grain of all kinds, to be imported in British vessels for a limited time. No goods are allowed to be carried away by sea from the United states to the province of Quebec upon any account whatever” (Macpherson, Annals of Commerce, IV description begins David Macpherson, Annals of Commerce, Manufactures, Fisheries, and Navigation, with Brief Notices of the Arts and Sciences Connected with Them. Containing the Commercial Transactions of the British Empire and Other Countries, From the Earliest Accounts to the Meeting of the Union Parliament in January 1801; and Comprehending the Most Valuable Part of the Late Mr. Anderson’s History of Commerce … (London, 1805), IV. description ends , 168–69).
In his “Report on Commerce,” December 16, 1793, Jefferson observed: “Great Britain admits in her islands our vegetables, live provisions, horses, wood, tar, pitch, and turpentine, rice and bread stuff, by a proclamation of her Executive, limited always to the term of a year, but hitherto renewed from year to year. She prohibits our salted fish and other salted provisions. She does not permit our vessels to carry thither our own produce. Her vessels alone, may take it from us, and bring us in exchange, rum, molasses, sugar, coffee, cocoa nuts, ginger, and pimento. There are indeed some freedoms in the island of Dominica, but, under such circumstances, as to be little used by us. In the British continental colonies, and in Newfoundland, all our productions are prohibited, and our vessels forbidden to enter their ports. Their Governors, however, in times of distress, have power to permit a temporary importation of certain articles, in their own bottoms, but not in ours. Our citizens cannot reside as merchants or factors, within any of the British plantations, this being expressly prohibited by the same statute of 12 Car. 2, c. 18, commonly called the navigation act” (ASP description begins American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States (Washington, 1832–1861). description ends , Foreign Relations, I, 302).
10. At this point Bond inserted the following footnote: “See St. of 12 C. 2. c 18. S. 3 which enacts that no goods &c of the growth &c of any part of America could be imported into the King’s European dominions except in British vessels.” This is a reference to the Navigation Act of 1660.
11. 27 Geo. III, C. 13 (1787). This act specified the duties to be charged on every product imported into Great Britain, uniting the sums collected by the customs into a “consolidated fund, out of which are paid all the annuities or interests upon the various branches of the national debt, and the annual million vested in the commissioners for the reduction of it, the whole national income being moreover engaged as an additional security to the creditors of the public” (Macpherson, Annals of Commerce, IV description begins David Macpherson, Annals of Commerce, Manufactures, Fisheries, and Navigation, with Brief Notices of the Arts and Sciences Connected with Them. Containing the Commercial Transactions of the British Empire and Other Countries, From the Earliest Accounts to the Meeting of the Union Parliament in January 1801; and Comprehending the Most Valuable Part of the Late Mr. Anderson’s History of Commerce … (London, 1805), IV. description ends , 124). The tables to which Bond is referring were the detailed schedules of duties and drawbacks which were appended to the act and which were designed to provide a simplified and concise guide for British and foreign merchants to the British customs charges. Except for French imports, the duties imposed by the new act tended to be somewhat higher than those levied earlier (Atton and Holland, The King’s Customs description begins Henry Atton and Henry Hurst Holland, The King’s Customs: An Account of Maritime Revenue & Contraband Traffic in England, Scotland, and Ireland, from the Earliest Times to the Year 1800 (New York, 1908). description ends , 377). An order in council of April 1, 1791, stated that, where the tables annexed to the consolidating act specified different duties on the same product when imported from different countries, the lowest duty should be charged on the product when imported from the United States.
12. Copy, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.
13. Moreau de St. Méry, Loix et Constitutions des Colonies Françoises description begins Médéric Louis Elie Moreau de St. Méry, Loix et Constitutions des Colonies Françoises de l’Amérique sous le Vent (Paris, 1784–1790). description ends , II, 557–65; III, 224–36.
14. Moreau de St. Méry, Loix et Constitutions des Colonies Françoises description begins Médéric Louis Elie Moreau de St. Méry, Loix et Constitutions des Colonies Françoises de l’Amérique sous le Vent (Paris, 1784–1790). description ends , V, 121–26. The 1767 arrêt authorized two West Indian ports, Carenage on St. Lucia and Môle de St. Nicholas on Santo Domingo, as entrepôts for foreign commerce but limited the incoming ships to those of more than one hundred tons and enacted stringent inspection procedures to discourage smuggling. The prohibition of ships of less than one hundred tons particularly operated to the disadvantage of the North American colonies since most American ships were considerably below that tonnage.
15. For a discussion of the trade of the North American colonies with the French West Indies before the American Revolution, see Dorothy Burne Goebel, “The ‘New England Trade’ and the French West Indies, 1763–1774: A Study in Trade Policies,” The William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., XX (July, 1963), 331–72; Richard Pares, War and Trade in the West Indies, 1739–1763 (Oxford, 1936), 395–468.
16. Miller, Treaties, II description begins Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and International Acts of the United States of America (Washington, 1931), II. description ends , 5. Article 2 of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce also stipulated that each nation should enjoy the privileges granted by the other signatory to any other power “freely, if the Concession was freely made, or on allowing the same Compensation, if the Concession was Conditional.”
17. Moreau de St. Méry, Loix et Constitutions des Colonies Françoises description begins Médéric Louis Elie Moreau de St. Méry, Loix et Constitutions des Colonies Françoises de l’Amérique sous le Vent (Paris, 1784–1790). description ends , VI, 314–15. This ordinance provided that the “Ordonnance du 20 Juillet 1778 cessera d’avoir son exécution, à compter du 1er Juillet prochain, passé lequel temps l’introduction des Bâtimens dans cette Colonie reprendra le cours qu’elle avoit avant ladite Ordonnance.…” For the opposition to this prohibitive policy, see Frederick L. Nussbaum, “The French Colonial Arrêt of 1784,” The South Atlantic Quarterly, XXVII (1928), 64–69; “Lettre du Ministre aux Administrateurs, touchant le Commerce Etranger,” June 27, 1784, Moreau de St. Méry, Loix et Constitutions des Colonies Françoises description begins Médéric Louis Elie Moreau de St. Méry, Loix et Constitutions des Colonies Françoises de l’Amérique sous le Vent (Paris, 1784–1790). description ends , VI, 544–45.
18. Moreau de St. Méry, Loix et Constitutions des Colonies Françoises description begins Médéric Louis Elie Moreau de St. Méry, Loix et Constitutions des Colonies Françoises de l’Amérique sous le Vent (Paris, 1784–1790). description ends , VI, 561–66.
19. Frederick L. Nussbaum, “The French Colonial Arrêt of 1784,” 64–69.
20. The arrêts of September 18 and September 25, 1785, are printed in Moreau de St. Méry, Loix et Constitutions des Colonies Françoises description begins Médéric Louis Elie Moreau de St. Méry, Loix et Constitutions des Colonies Françoises de l’Amérique sous le Vent (Paris, 1784–1790). description ends , VI, 847–51, 863–65. A copy of the arrêt of February 11, 1787, may be found in the Papers of the Continental Congress, National Archives.
21. Setser, Commercial Reciprocity description begins Vernon G. Setser, The Commercial Reciprocity Policy of the United States, 1774–1829 (Philadelphia, 1937). description ends , 81–89; George F. Zook, “Proposals for New Commercial Treaty Between France and the United States, 1778–1793,” The South Atlantic Quarterly, VIII (1909), 267–83; Boyd, Papers of Thomas Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd, ed., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (Princeton, 1950– ). description ends , XIII, 52–91; XIV, 217–25.
22. According to a “General Table of Commerce between France and the United States from 1775 to 1792…” France’s failure to capture the United States trade from Great Britain after 1783 is indicated by the shift in the balance of trade between the two countries as shown by French customs returns from 1775 to 1792. During the war years, when British ports were closed to American shipping, the value of the balance in favor of France ranged from 2,105,000 livres in 1775 to 8,108,000 livres in 1783. When commerce between the United States and Great Britain was resumed after the war, the balance shifted in favor of the United States from 7,432,000 livres in 1784 to 19,476,000 livres in 1792. By 1793 the balance in favor of the United States had increased to 51,253,330 livres (Edmund Buron, “Statistics on Franco-American Trade, 1778–1806,” Journal of Economic and Business History, IV , 580).
23. See, for example, Charles Maurice Talleyrand-Perigord, Memoir Concerning the Commercial Relations of the United States with England (Boston, 1809), 9. Talleyrand observed that after the American Revolution the United States was “under the necessity of importing from Europe not only a great part of what she consumes internally, but likewise a considerable portion of what she makes use of for her external commerce. Now all these articles are furnished to America so completely by England, that there is reason to doubt whether, in the time of the most severe prohibition, England enjoyed more exclusively this advantage, with what were then her colonies, than she does at present with the independent United States. The causes of this voluntary monopoly are, moreover, easy to be assigned. The immense quantity of manufactured goods which are sent out of England; the division of labor … adapted to the different processes of the manufactures, have enabled the English manufacturers to lower the price of all the articles of daily use, below the rate at which other nations have hitherto been able to afford them.” See also Boyd, Papers of Thomas Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd, ed., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (Princeton, 1950– ). description ends , XIII, 57; Zook, “Proposals for New Commercial Treaty Between France and the United States, 1778–1793,” 272; Setser, Commercial Reciprocity description begins Vernon G. Setser, The Commercial Reciprocity Policy of the United States, 1774–1829 (Philadelphia, 1937). description ends , 83, 91–92; Henri Sée, “Commerce Between France and the United States, 1783–1784,” The American Historical Review, XXXI (1926), 732–52.
24. Talleyrand, Memoir Concerning Commercial Relations, 9. Talleyrand also observed: “Without doubt the English merchant must, in one way or other, indemnify himself for the interest of the sums of which he allows so long a use: but as the orders succeed regularly, and are increasing every year, there is established a balance of regular payments and of fresh credit, which leaves nothing in arrear but the first accommodation, the interest of which is to be gained from the succeeding orders, as well as from the former ones. This first debt establishes, as we see, a connexion between the English and American correspondent, which is difficult to be broken off. The former fears that, if he fail to send the goods ordered, he may overwhelm a debtor whose prosperity is the only security for his advances; the American, on his part is afraid of quitting a creditor, with whom he has too many old accounts to settle. It is almost impossible for any third nation to interfere with these reciprocal interests, strengthened by long habit. Thus France, in her commerce with America, is reduced to the supplying of a few products peculiar to her soil; and does not enter into any competition with England in the sale of manufactured goods, which she would not supply to America either at so cheap a rate, or on such long credit” (Talleyrand, Memoir Concerning Commercial Relations, 10).
25. Nussbaum, “American Tobacco and French Politics, 1783–1789,” Political Science Quarterly, XL (December, 1925), 501. See also Boyd, Papers of Thomas Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd, ed., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (Princeton, 1950– ). description ends , XIII, 58–65.
26. For the tobacco monopoly of the Farmers-General, see Nussbaum, “American Tobacco and French Politics,” 501–10; Frederick L. Nussbaum, “The Revolutionary Vergennes and Lafayette Versus the Farmers General,” The Journal of Modern History, III (1931), 592–613 (this article also contains Lafayette’s 1786 attack on the tobacco farm, “Resumé de mon avis au Comité du Commerce avec les Etats-unis lorsque la question des tabacs nous a été presentée”); Bingham Duncan, “Franco-American Tobacco Diplomacy,” Maryland Historical Magazine, LI (1956), 273–77; Boyd, Papers of Thomas Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd, ed., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (Princeton, 1950– ). description ends , VIII, 385–93, IX, 457–61; Louis Gottschalk, Lafayette Between the American and the French Revolution, 1783–1789 (Chicago, 1950), 205–08, 215–17, 222–37. For Lafayette’s earlier views on the tobacco cartel and on Franco-American commerce generally, see his 1783 “Observations sur le Commerce entre France et les Etats Unis,” printed in Gottschalk, “Lafayette as Commercial Expert,” American Historical Review, XXXVI (1930–1931), 561–70.
27. Writing to Jefferson on March 4, 1791, Short expressed his views on the commercial policy of the Assembly as follows: “I cannot … too often repeat to you that it is impossible to form a conjecture either of what the Assembly will do or undo on any subject. Their mode of deliberation & decision renders their being surprized into measures against their intention, unavoidable. Their decree with respect to tobacco may serve as an example. The difference in the duty paid between french & american vessels, suggested probably by some owner of ships, was proposed & passed without its being even suspected that such a proposition would be made—they had no idea certainly that it was a navigation act in a degree of rigor to which it was impossible that any country would submit without attempting to counteract it.… I don’t doubt that you are fully sensible that the decrees of the Assembly are so essentially the work of accident, of the force of parties & the force of circumstances, that no person in any situation whatever can control them; & of course that no person in my situation could have prevented those which have been passed with respect to the articles of american commerce” (ALS, RG 59, Despatches from United States Ministers to France, 1789–1869, January 16, 1791–August 6, 1792, National Archives).
29. Annals of Congress description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature (Washington, 1834–1849). description ends , IV, 155–56.
30. Annals of Congress description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature (Washington, 1834–1849). description ends , IV, 174–210.
31. John C. Hamilton states that Smith’s “elaborate performance was from the pen of Hamilton as appears from his autograph draft” (Hamilton, History description begins John C. Hamilton, Life of Alexander Hamilton, a History of the Republic of the United States of America (Boston, 1879). description ends , V, 450). See also Irving Brant, James Madison, Father of the Constitution 1787–1800 (New York, 1950), III, 391, and Mitchell, Hamilton description begins Broadus Mitchell, Alexander Hamilton (New York, 1957–1962). description ends , II, 290–91.
32. Most of the commercial information given in the “View” appears to apply to the period before the end of 1792. No mention is made, for example, of the French decree of February 19, 1793, which opened the ports of French colonies to American shipping and permitted “All the produce exported or imported by American vessels” into the ports of France on the same terms as French vessels (ASP description begins American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States (Washington, 1832–1861). description ends , Foreign Relations, I, 147). Neither does H refer to the decree of March 26, 1793, “exempting from all duties the subsistences and other objects of supply in the colonies” (ASP description begins American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States (Washington, 1832–1861). description ends , Foreign Relations, I, 363). This does not, however, necessarily indicate the date of the “View,” since the tendency was to look upon the legislation passed during 1793 as temporary measures. In his speech of January 13 Smith observed: “A fair comparison can only be made with an eye to what may be deemed the permanent system of the countries in question. The proper epoch for it, therefore, will precede the commen[ce]ment of the pending French Revolution” (Annals of Congress description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature (Washington, 1834–1849). description ends , IV, 175). The conclusions in Jefferson’s “Report on Commercial Privileges and Restrictions” of December 16, 1793, do not generally indicate the concessions made by the French government in 1793, although he observes in his letter of transmittal to the House of Representatives that France has “relaxed some of the restraints mentioned in the Report” (ASP description begins American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States (Washington, 1832–1861). description ends , Foreign Relations, I, 300–04).
34. On November 24, 1791, Jefferson wrote to William Short that “M. [Jean Baptiste] de Ternant tells me he has no instructions to propose to us the negotiation of a commercial treaty, and that he does not expect any” (ALS, letterpress copy, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress). For Ternant’s reports to his government on his commercial discussions with the United States officials, see Ternant to Comte de Montmorin, October 9, 24, 1791, Ternant to Claude Antoine de Valdec de Lessart, April 8, 1792, and Ternant to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, June 15, 1792 (Turner, “Correspondence of the French Ministers,” 57–65, 60–65, 108–14, 126–27).
35. “Conversation with Jean Baptiste de Ternant,” October 7, 1791. In late 1791 H wrote to two members of Congress for information on the French policy toward the American fisheries which he may have intended to use either for the proposed Franco-American treaty of commerce or for his comparative study of British and French commercial policy toward the United States. See George Cabot to H, December 8, 18, 1791; Jeremiah Wadsworth to H, December 10, 1791.
36. Jefferson’s account of the negotiations is contained in an entry in the “Anas,” dated March 11, 1792. Jefferson stated: “Towards the latter end of Nov. H. had drawn Ternant into a conversation on the subject of the treaty of commerce recommdd. by the Natl assembly of France to be negotiated with us, and as he hd nt recd. instrns on the subject he led him into a proposal that Ternant shd take the thing up as a volunteer with me, that we shd arrange condns, and let them go for confirmn or refusal. H. communicated this to the Presid. who came into it, & proposed it to me. I disapproved of it, observg that such a volunteer project would be binding on us, & not on them, that it would enable them to find out how far we would go, & avail themselves of it. However, the Presidt. thot it worth trying & I acquiesced. I prepared a plan of treaty for exchanging the privileges of native subjects and fixing all duties forever as they now stood. He did not like this way of fixing the duties because he said that many articles here would bear to be raised and therefore he would prepare a tariff. He did so raising duties for the French from 25. to 50 per cent …” (Ford, Writings of Jefferson description begins Paul Leicester Ford, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (New York, 1892–1899). description ends , I, 185). A copy of this tariff in Jefferson’s handwriting and labeled “The above contains Hamilton’s tariff of the duties which cannot be receded from in treaty with France, spoken of in my private note of March 11, 92” may be found in the Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress. The undated document in H’s handwriting from which Jefferson apparently made his notes is in the Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress, and reads as follows:
“An import duty, not exceeding 10 per Centum ad valorem, at the place of exportation, may be laid on manufactures of Flax Hemp Wool Cotton silk furs or of mixtures of either, Of Gold Silver, Copper, brass, Iron Steel Tin Pewter or of which either of these metals is the material of chief value, upon flour, salted beef pork and fish, & Oils of every kind. Bar-Iron and bar-lead nails and spikes steel unwrought, cables cordage, yarn twine and pack thread shal⟨l⟩ not be deemed to be included, in the foregoing enumeration.
“An import duty not exceeding 15 per centum ad valorem at the place of exportation may be laid upon Porcelaine or China wares Glass and all manufactures of glass, Stone and earthen wares and generally upon all manufactures of which stone or earth is the principal material.
“An import duty not exceeding 50 per Centum ad valorem at the place of exportation may be laid on all spirits distilled from fruits. [This is computed on a Gallon of brandy costing 2/ Stg 20 Cents G]
“An import duty not exceeding 25 per Centum ad valorem, at the place of exportation, may be laid on all wines. [20 Cents Gall]
“Grain of every kind, peas and other vegetables, live Cattle Pitch Tarr and Turpentine, unmanufactured wood, Indigo, Pot and pearl-ash, Flax Hemp Cotton silk wool shall be free from duties both on exportation and importation.
“Neither party shall impose any duty on the exportation to the countries of the other ⟨of⟩ any raw material whatsoever. This prohibition ⟨shall⟩ be deemed to extend to molasses and Tobacco.
“An export duty not exceeding five per Centum ad valorem at the place of exportation may be imposed on all brown and clayed sugars.
“All articles not specified or described in the foregoing clauses may be rated according to the discretion of each party both as to exportation and importation but neither party shall lay any higher duty upon any production or manufacture of the other imported into any part of the dominions of such party than shall be laid upon the like or a similar production or manufacture of any other nation imported into the same or any other part of the dominions of said party.
“Neither party shall subject the vessels cargoes or Merchants of the other to any greater charges or burthens within its own ports, than its own vessels cargoes and merchants shall be subject to within the ports of the other; except as to duties by way of revenue, to the Government which may be regulated as either party pleases within the limits and in conformity to the principles established in this Treaty. [⟨Cha⟩rges alluded to are ⟨no⟩t charges ⟨co⟩mmissions for Agents ⟨all⟩owances for guards &c]
“Neither party shall grant any bounties or premiums upon its own ships, nor upon commodities imported in its own ships, which shall not extend to the Ships nor to commodities imported in the Ships of the other party nor upon any commodities whatsoever with special reference direct or indirect to an exportation to the countries of the other.
“Neither party shall prohibit an importation into its own dominions or the vent there of any of the productions or manufactures of the other.
“Neither party shall grant or allow in consequence of any former grant any privilege or exemption in Trade to another nation which shall not be ipso facto communicated to the other party.
“Neither party shall grant to another nation the peculiar privileges and exemptions stipulated by this treaty except for the peculiar considerations upon which they are herein stipulated. Peculiar privileges and exemptions and peculiar considerations shall be deemed to be those only which are contained in the stipulation of the articles.
“Neither party shall reduce any existing duties upon the ships productions or manufactures of other countries except by virtue of a treaty founded on a reciprocation of equal privileges and exemptions with those mutually stipulated in the present Treaty.”
The material within brackets was written by H in the margin opposite the paragraphs in which it is printed above. In JCHW description begins John C. Hamilton, ed., The Works of Alexander Hamilton (New York, 1851–1856). description ends , IV, 555–57, and HCLW description begins Henry Cabot Lodge, ed., The Works of Alexander Hamilton (New York, 1904). description ends , V, 129–31, this document is dated 1794 and is printed as an enclosure to H to John Jay, May 6, 1794.
Jefferson maintained that H intended to use the proposed treaty with France as “a pretext to engage us on the same ground with Hammond, taking care at the same time, by an extravagant tariff to render it impossible that we should come to any conclusion with Ternant” (Ford, Writings of Jefferson description begins Paul Leicester Ford, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (New York, 1892–1899). description ends , I, 186).
38. On February 23, 1791, the House of Representatives requested that Jefferson report to Congress on “the nature and extent of the privileges and restrictions of the commercial intercourse of the United States with foreign nations, and such measures as he shall think proper to be adopted for the improvement of the commerce and navigation of the same” (Journal of the House, I description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States (Washington, 1826), I. description ends , 388). In a letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives on February 20, 1793, Jefferson explained the delay in presenting his report: “The report was … prepared during the ensuing recess ready to be delivered at their next Session.… It was thought possible at that time, however, that some changes might take place in the existing state of Things, which might call for corresponding changes in measures. I took the liberty of mentioning this in a letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, to express an opinion that a suspension of proceedings thereon for a time, might be expedient, and to propose retaining the Report ’till the present session …” (letterpress copy, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress). Jefferson then requested a second postponement to which the House agreed (Journal of the House, I description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States (Washington, 1826), I. description ends , 710, 718).